Rwandan electric motorcycle startup Ampersand secures $9m debt facility

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Rwanda-based electric motorcycle company Ampersand has secured a US$9 million loan facility from the US International Development  Finance Corporation (DFC) to expand its operations in Rwanda and Kenya. 

Launched commercially in May 2019, Ampersand assembles and finances electric motorcycles that cost less to buy and operate, and perform better than the five million petrol motorcycle taxis in use across East Africa.

The core of Ampersand’s business is the network of battery swap stations and fleet of batteries it builds and operates, which allows drivers to swap batteries faster than refilling a tank with petrol and shields vehicle buyers from the high upfront cost of a lithium battery pack. 

Since its commercial launch in May 2019, Ampersand’s team has performed over 50,000 battery swaps, powering its fleet of 56 drivers for over two million kilometres. The startup has been fundraising to help it scale, and earlier this year secured a US$4 million investment from the Ecosystem Integrity Fund (EIF) and TotalEnergies.

It has now added to that with a US$9 million loan from the DFC, which will allow Ampersand to scale up the number of electric motorcycles on the road in Rwanda and Kenya to several thousand by the end of 2022. The loan is part of DFC’s Portfolio for Impact and Innovation (PI²) initiative and contributes to its commitment to the US Energy Compact and its target to address climate change with one third of its investments by 2023. 

“We’re thrilled to have DFC on board with this historic investment, which is building momentum to electrify all of East Africa’s five million motorcycle taxis by 2030. DFC’s support underlines the viability and investability of electric two-wheelers for mass-market customers in the Global South, and the importance of this market to reaching net zero. On the eve of COP26 in Glasgow we believe more bold, fast-moving and innovative funds like PI² are urgently needed,” said Josh  Whale, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Ampersand.

“DFC is proud to support Ampersand in their important and innovative work bringing e-mobility and electric motorcycles to Rwanda and Kenya,” said DFC’s chief climate officer Jake Levine. “DFC is focused on making impactful investments in developing countries that will help communities progress and grow while simultaneously building resilience and prosperity for a clean energy future — this investment and the incredible growth that Ampersand has demonstrated in the market represents a great step in that direction.”

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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